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Arts Culture Labour Day 2021: A Quick History In The Philippines

Labour Day 2021: A Quick History In The Philippines

Photo:  Zeyn Afuang of Unsplash
Photo: Zeyn Afuang of Unsplash
By Jove Moya
By Jove Moya
April 30, 2021
The First of May takes on a more solemn meaning for many workers and unionists in the country. To understand why, let us step back and remember how the working class demanded fair labour schemes in the early 1900s.

In the Philippines, International Labour Day is remembered every first of May to mark the centuries-long struggle of the proletariat and honour their bravery for demanding better working conditions. 

On 1 May 1903, the first Labour Day celebration in the country took place in Plaza Moriones, Tondo to Malacañang where thousands of labourers gathered by the Union Obrera Democratica de Filipinas marched and protested independence against American capitalism and imperialism.

The event, which history considers as one of the first protests in the streets of Manila, had more than 100,000 attendees who made their stand against exploitation.

Related: A Dose of History: The Glory Days Of Philippine Society Before World War II

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

International Labour Day is the only international holiday created and proclaimed directly by the working sector. It stemmed from mass actions worldwide that demanded safe working schemes, eight-hour labour, and better wages.


The eight-hour day or 40-hour week movement was a social movement that seeks to regulate the length of a working day in order to prevent the working class from exhaustion and inhumane working practices. 

In the early 19th century, social reformer Robert Owen coined the slogan: "Eight hours' labour, Eight hours recreation, Eight hours rest". This was in response to the Industrial Revolution in Britain, where a working day could range from 10 to 16 hours, while the workweek was typically six days a week.

More from Tatler: Do You Know Why We Remember 'Araw Ng Kagitingan'?


One hundred eight years after the first Labour Day rally, the Filipino working class still has a long way before they could really enjoy basic rights granted by the law. 

Under the law, wage-earners in the country are subjected to equal work opportunities, weekly day-offs, wage-related benefits (e.g.: 13th-month pay), and air compensation. They are also granted the right to have on-the-job protection, the right to collective bargaining, and tax-exempt compensation.

According to a report, Filipino workers remain to be among the people with the lowest salaries around the globe. The data presented by the e-commerce platform Picodi showed that the Philippines ranked 95th out of 106 countries in terms of the average wage, recorded at $308 or PHP15,200 in 2020.

A protester in a Spiderman suit holds a poster during the Labor Day protest in Mendiola, Manila on  May 1, 2019. Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler
A protester in a Spiderman suit holds a poster during the Labor Day protest in Mendiola, Manila on May 1, 2019. Photo by Rob Reyes/Rappler


This year, progressive labour groups will convene online to call for the fair distribution of economic aid to labourers amid COVID-19. 

Members of Kilusang Mayo Uno, NAGKAISA! Labor Coalition, Pagkakaisa ng Uring Manggagawa (PAGGAWA), Kilusan ng Manggagawang Kababaihan, and Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino, Defend Job Philippines will join the #TABAKKLabanSaPalpak (Trabaho, Ayuda, Bakuna, Karapatan, Kasarinlan) to commemorate labour day. 

Web seminars (webinars) led by the Student alliance SALiGA -CSSP (College of Social Sciences and Philosophy), will also push through to discuss the effects of neoliberal policies in the Philippines today.

Read also: Work Smart From Your Home Office With These Useful iPhone Productivity Tips


Arts & Culture Labour day Holiday PH Holiday History


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